Geert Wilders: A Free-Speech Litmus Test

by Benjamin Weinthal

Berlin — Holland’s judicial campaign to strip Geert Wilders of his right to engage in ruthless polemical and intellectual criticism of Islam reached today its final prosecution phase. A hypersensitive and overly politically and socially correct Dutch legal system charged Wilders, the head of the Freedom Party, with incitement to hate because he has argued, for example, that Islam is animated by the same strand of totalitarianism as the other bloody –isms, fascism and Communism.

The Wilders case embodies the key Western litmus test for lively free-speech rights, and, predictably, there has been, for the most part, an eerie silence across Europe. Free-speech absolutists on the European liberal Left are terribly uninterested in flexing their political muscle to defend Wilders’s rights. It is a  depressing time for the advocates of robust free speech in Europe.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who had to flee the Netherlands because Dutch Islamists were seeking to literally annihilate her, captured in the Wall Street Journal what the Wilders case means for human freedom. The Islam expert Daniel Pipes issued a call of solidarity with Wilders at the outset of 2010 (“Why I Stand with Geert Wilders”), and his text resonates even more as 2010 reaches its end.

The legal gangsters masquerading as detached, objective enforcers of Holland’s hate-crimes laws are a window into the court of a country stuck in the Middle Ages. While the Dutch judicial system is bending over backwards to placate political Islam, perhaps free-speech advocates on the other side of the Atlantic can breed resistance and inspiration among the painfully complacent Europeans on this side of the Atlantic. If the West fails the Wilders’ litmus test, the only escape hatch for sober thinking Europeans will be to follow Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s lead and flee to the U.S.

Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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